INDIANAPOLIS —When you select a player widely regarded as one of the best — if not the best — overall players in the NFL Draft, it’s tough to find any wide-ranging outside criticism.
And when that player is also regarded by many as the top offensive line prospect to enter the NFL Draft in almost two decades, then it really is a no-brainer.
As such, the Indianapolis Colts didn’t waste any time when they got on the clock Thursday night in the first round, selecting that decorated player, guard Quenton Nelson.
So while Colts general manager Chris Ballard and the Colts certainly know what they’re getting out of their newest player (read more on that here), what’s the outside noise about the pick?
• NFL.com’s Chad Reuter gave the Colts a Day 1 draft grade of “A.” He writes: “GM Chris Ballard hauled in three second-round picks from the Jets to move down just three slots. They still got Quenton Nelson, one of the top three players in the draft. He'll be a difference maker up front for an organization that needs to protect its franchise player.”
•CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco gave the Colts a “B” for selecting Nelson. He writes: “Might be the cleanest player in the draft, but this is high for a guard. I get it with the need to better protect Andrew Luck.” (Many argued that very “you don’t take a guard this high” point leading up to the draft, but the best argument for it — other than the fact Nelson was regarded the best-overall offensive lineman in this class, period — is that interior defensive linemen in the NFL seemingly get quicker, better, faster each and every season. That means the guard position is crucial, especially when it addresses a major team need.)
• Bleacher Report’s Richard Janvrin gave the Colts a perfect “A-plus” for the pick. He writes: “Finally, the Indianapolis Colts have made a first-round selection that is not only smart but makes the most sense given their roster. Quenton Nelson was many people's top overall prospect heading into the draft, and the Colts got him at No. 6. It's a phenomenal pick to help protect quarterback Andrew Luck when he comes back from injury.”
• For The Win/USA TODAY Sports’ Steven Ruiz also assigned an “A-plus” for the selection of Nelson. He writes: “The Colts needed help on the offensive line and ended up with the best offensive line prospect in recent memory. Making this pick even better: Indy landed a bounty of picks from Jets to move back to this pick.”
• Yahoo! Sports gave the Colts an “A” for the pick. They write: “His vicious blocking made him a highlights star on social media. Preserving Andrew Luck is the clear mandate here for the Colts. Feels like a 10-year starter as the safest pick in the draft.”
• WalterFootball.com gave the selection of Nelson an “A,” as well. They write: “There are three non-quarterback blue-chip prospects in this class. Bradley Chubb and Saquon Barkley were the first two. Quenton Nelson is the third. The Colts could have taken Roquan Smith, and I would've been fine with it, but Indianapolis absolutely needs to protect Andrew Luck whenever he's able to come back from injury. Nelson should be an elite guard in the NFL, and he'll keep interior rushers from putting heat on Luck.”
• SB Nation’s Dan Kadar gave the selection an "A-plus". He writes; “It’s been said all along that if Chubb and Barkley were gone that Nelson was probably the smartest choice for the Colts. This is a pick about keeping Andrew Luck healthy. Nelson is considered by some as the draft’s best player and he can step right into the starting lineup. Nelson is a player who sets the depth of the pocket perfectly and doesn’t give up space. He’s a highlight reel guard, and that’s probably never been said about an interior offensive lineman before.”
• Sports Illustrated’s Andy Benoit, meanwhile, was just not a fan at all of the Nelson pick, giving the Colts a "D-plus." Yes, a "D-plus" for selecting clearly the best available player on the board. He writes: “Many view Nelson as the best guard prospect since Zack Martin. And true, the Colts aren’t great at guard. (Jack Mewhort is fine on the left side, but the right side has seen a rotation of right tackle type fringe backups such as Joe Haeg and Denzelle Good.) That said … have you seen this defense? Its only true three-down players are safety Malik Hooker and corner Quincy Wilson—and both have played just half a rookie season in the NFL. Every other player, save for maybe edge men Jabaal Sheard and John Simon if we’re being generous, is a situational piece. And with most of the lineup built for Chuck Pagano’s scheme, not new coordinator Matt Eberflus’s, it’s hard to envision many situations where those guys would work. The Colts can block better now, but it won’t matter if their opponents score 40 each week. And while protecting Andrew Luck is obviously important, you do that by scheming more quick-strike throws, not banking so heavily on his blockers.” (So, clearly, Benoit thinks the Colts should’ve gone after, perhaps, guys like Roquan Smith or Tremaine Edmunds at linebacker. But to assign a "D-plus" to this selection of Nelson, to this biased observer, seems a little harsh. The Colts addressed a major need; it just didn’t happen to come on the defensive side of the ball as Benoit would’ve wanted. This would be like an art teacher in high school who tells his student, Leonardo da Vinci, to create an oil painting, but ultimately gives him a "D-plus" on the project because he painted the Mona Lisa *when the teacher felt he should’ve created *The Starry Night instead.)